He woke and gagged, feeling his gorge rise as he desperately tried to clear the obstruction in his throat. Some kind of tube removed itself from his mouth with a painful tug. The air that rushed into his lungs felt heavenly but couldn’t keep him from dry-heaving even though he wasn’t quite able to summon up the energy to vomit. A blinding light blinded him as he tried to open his eyes. He tried to move a hand to block it, but his arms were restrained. Something was very, very wrong. “Mr. Bettega, can you hear me?” He lay still.

The skies are ablaze. Fighters drop down like fire-lit hail. No, more like birds. Blazing cormorants, dive-bombing into the water to catch fish, relying solely on the force of gravity for their fall. It rains shrapnel and body fluids on the cityscape. From the outer walls below, cannon shells dash up, pelting the reinforced hulls of the warships in the skies above the city of Ohn. The Ocreon, one of the flagships of the Tiger fleet, hovers above the weeping hill as it unloads its cannons on the people below. An explosion roars as a ball of fire engulfs the

The Messiah’s sermon was running especially long this Easter. He’d woken up and come out of the tomb and it had been appropriately sparkly, like always. George knew how lucky he was to have won the Party lottery to attend the Resurrection in person, but brunch wasn’t served until after the speeches and George was starving. Truth be told, George was still a bit hungover from Friday night. The twin Easter Festivals – Friday’s raucous Euthanization followed by the Resurrection on Sunday morning – brought out the wild side of many citizens, and George was no exception. (Green Party Euthanizations,

Originally published in Esquire, issue #3151, March 23rd, 2064. While waiting in the Austin terminal for my mono to Ottawa, I began to think. Ten years ago, this trip would’ve taken two hours. Now, it’s a brisk thirty-five minutes. Barely enough time for my coffee to cool down. I’m thankful for it, too. I hate the crowds. Constant shoving, the noise and chatter, the smells, the pick-pockets and wide-eyed gypsy kids. On the train, I buy breakfast from a peddler. Pancake cubes are my favourite but the girl only has fry-up cubes left. Another problem with the crowds. If they

She swept into the chamber more snowflake on the breeze than Empress of all. The swanlike feathers of her ballgown alighted in a mound of purest white, as she paused in exquisite repose. Standing at the top of the staircase, a sovereign amongst her vagabond horde, even the orchestra lingered on a note to admire her. The occasion demanded such excellence, and she delivered. The Empress of all who remained in our frozen world surveyed the ballroom’s dance floor with eyes of chill beauty. She took in each and every reveller with a single elegant sweep of her head. Seeing

Cephas again observed his body in the reflections of the broken glass in the control room. While lacking either male or female genitalia, the absence of breasts indicated a stronger likelihood of maleness. But there was no way to be sure. The people he watched and listened to were either male or female, masculine feminine, man woman, boy girl, guy gal, dude chick, gentleman lady, cowboy cowgirl, muchacho perra, gigolo slut. So far, Cephas had catalogued seven hundred sixty-two words used to designate male from female in a variety of contexts. When he watched their bodies move under grainy light

The small pinkish human pushes his round glasses back up his button nose and inclines his round-cheeked head, standing between two packed cylinders of silk thread taller than himself. He turns around and disappears through the shimmering portal. Zutroq attaches the silk-filled black cylinders to her carrying rod, which she subsequently hoists up onto her lean upper shoulders. With her lower left arm, she reaches behind her oval head and pulls up her kasa, shielding her eyes and face from the bright suns. The silk continues its journey. Produced on Earth – one of the newest members of the 27

It was mid-week and still too early for paying customers. I was watching the vidscreen at the Stray Cat show programs about Earth, and wishing I’d never left. The mirror above the bar showed Lena circulating in a green silk dress. The matching scarf around her neck marked her available. In the corner sat a couple of Bavarsi, a telepathically-bonded pair who specialised in threesomes. Their scarves were red: they must have been waiting for their patron to turn up. The vidscreen was showing a documentary about sea turtles. It was one of the reasons I liked to work the

The door erupted in an explosion, devouring the six security locks. A small metal canister flew from the freshly made opening in the door. Samantha jumped from the couch as it bounced off the floor once, twice- BANG! A blinding flash of orange light followed the sound. Samantha clutched her face, falling to her knees in disorientation. If anyone said anything she could not hear it over the ringing in her ears. Two sets of hands took a strong hold of her arms and pulled her up. Her blurry eyesight could make out the heavily equipped men in uniform that

CASPER STAR-TRIBUNE FBI BROUGHT IN TO INVESTIGATE WAPITI FIRE AND EXPLOSION Star-Tribune Staff, September 8, 2048. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ Denver field office have arrived in Cody to take part in the investigation of the explosion and fire at the Lost Trails Saloon in Wapiti that took the lives of an undetermined number of people last Wednesday evening. Park County Sheriff Neal Stewart described the FBI presence as a welcome addition to the local and state team that is seeking to unravel the causes of the mysterious event, the deadliest in Western Wyoming since the 1940s. As